Out of the Vault: Soundtracks with Ned Cantrell

Making art from glass is time-consuming. It is an undertaking that can unfold over hours, but more often takes place over days, weeks, or even months. A great music playlist can be essential to keeping focused and staying creative. These playlists were the starting point for our exhibition Out of the Vault: Soundtracks. MOG Curator Katie Buckingham sat down with Ned Cantrell to learn more about his work in the exhibition and his creative process.

KB: Could you tell us more about The Emperor’s New Clothes and your 2019 residency at MOG?

NC:  During my residency I reworked some of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales, giving them a contemporary spin. The Emperor’s New Clothes depicts an Emperor wearing nothing but his crown and tattooed insignia of oil companies. Underneath him the ground is burning. Often it seems that politicians perpetuate a lie because the alternative would mean losing face and political suicide. In the original fairytale, a child reveals the Emperor’s hypocrisy by shouting “The King has got no clothes on.”  

KB:  Describe your playlist – is it what you listen to while you work, or a list of your favorites?

NC: Music can be a muse. I have occasionally made pieces directly inspired by a song, but more often it is a mood or atmosphere which I find inspirational. My playlist is a bit of a mix. It includes some favorites that have been played on repeat and some tracks which I think perhaps relate to my work in some way.

KB: Where do you make your work?

NC: I am privileged to have my own hot shop together with my wife, Karen Nyholm, in Ebeltoft, Denmark. Ebeltoft is a hub for glassblowing not unlike Tacoma, with six glassblowing workshops, around 20 glassblowers, and a glass museum.

KB: What about your studio space helps your creative process?

NC: Our workshop used to be owned by Finn Lynggaard and Tchai Munch and was the first in Ebeltoft in 1979. The building is a piece of Danish glass history and holds many stories. It reminds me that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. And is also motivating to be a part of a bigger picture.

KB: Where do you look for inspiration?

NC: I have one theme which is common to almost all of my work, which is a discourse between high culture and low culture. Basically, I take objects from low culture — trash, cartoons, mass-produced plastic products — and reproduce them using virtuoso glass techniques. Sometimes my work may be political or conceptual, but mostly it is aesthetically motivated. I live in a very beautiful part of the world, so it is probably very wrong of me not to be inspired by my surroundings. Most people would, I guess. I am not sure why, but I always seem to be looking for ugliness.

KB: How do you push through a creative block?

NC: Never play to the gallery. If I am blocked, I try to make things only for myself and not think about what anybody else will think of it. I allow myself time to play and create without worrying about the results. I make some embarrassingly bad things sometimes, but this is also the time where I develop most.

KB: How was your creative process impacted by the pandemic? 

NC: The pandemic didn’t affect my work very much. It was easy for us to isolate because our workshop is on our property, and Karen and I usually assist each other anyway. I just crawled back in under my stone.

KB: What’s on the horizon for you and your work?

NC: We are about to light the furnace after a break for the summer. I have too many ideas for what to make next, so I will have to be selective. Certainly, more inflatable pool toys. I am really into them. And probably a new series with dead insects. We have many dead insects on our windowsills already, so it seems like an obvious thing to make. Coming up, I will be teaching at The Glass Factory in Sweden and I have a residency at Nuutajärvi Glassworks in Finland. In 2023, I will be returning to the Pacific Northwest to teach at Pilchuck Glass School together with Karen.

Check out Ned Cantrell’s playlist on Spotify, and visit us at Museum of Glass to see more of our collection featured in Out of the Vault: Soundtracks.

About The Artist:
Ned Cantrell graduated in England in 1997 and has been running his workshop in Denmark together with Karen Nyholm since 2004. Over the years, he has absorbed a range of techniques for blowing and hot-sculpting glass which he excretes in an eclectic and unique mix of styles and disciplines. Ned utilizes symbols of pop culture and consumerism such as trash, tattoos, and science fiction, while exploring the contradiction between the objects’ kitschy spirit and the finesse of craftsmanship. His work has been widely exhibited in Europe, Asia, and the USA.

Cantrell’s work is featured in Out of the Vault: Soundtracks, currently on display at Museum of Glass and open through June 18, 2023.

Learn more and view Cantrell’s work at https://www.nyholmcantrell.dk/?v=dd65ef9a5579

Image credits:

  1. Ned Cantrell, pictured with his wife and collaborator Karen Nyholm. Photo courtesy of the artist.
  2. Ned Cantrell (Danish, born 1975). The Emperor’s New Clothes. Made at the Museum in 2019. Blown and hot-sculpted glass; 25 1/2 × 9 1/2 × 8 1/2 inches. Collection of Museum of Glass, Tacoma, Washington, gift of the artist. Photo by Mark Aimerito.
  3. Ned Cantrell working at Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, Washington in 2016. Photo by Stephanie Lifshutz.
  4. Ned Cantrell (Danish, born 1975). Geisha, 2016. Blown and hot-sculpted glass; 27 1/2 inches tall. Courtesy of the artist. Photo by Ned Cantrell.